Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted he remained a fan of the controversial video assistant referee system despite his team’s bitterly disappointing 3-2 defeat by West Bromwich Albion in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Match referee Craig Pawson used the system no fewer than eight times during an eventful game at Anfield on Saturday, with VAR being trialled in English cup competitions this season.
Three of those referrals, all in the first half, proved hugely important as Pawson and VAR Andre Marriner, based in a London television studio, disallowed a West Brom goal, awarded Liverpool a penalty and then allowed an Albion goal to stand.
“I think it’s normal that it will change things,” said Klopp. “Is it nice that West Brom celebrate a goal then somebody tells them it’s not a goal? No, but I think it’s important if a goal needs to be disallowed, it is disallowed.
“Normally after a game I have to explain to you (the media) a defeat which was not deserved because we didn’t get a penalty or they scored another goal. Is it cool in January to have delays when it’s cold, especially for the players? Maybe not.
“But it will become smoother and more fluent in the future,” the German added.
In truth, Klopp and Liverpool benefitted from two of those three decisions and could have been facing an even greater defeat had they not done so.
Roberto Firmino handed Liverpool an early lead only for Jay Rodriguez to score twice and Craig Dawson to add a third goal in first-half injury-time via defender Joel Matip, but only after the VAR ruled Rodriguez had not been offside.
Of the other two key VAR decisions, Pawson decided Gareth Barry was offside when Dawson headed in what would have been West Brom’s third goal and then correctly judged that Jake Livermore fouled Mo Salah for a penalty which Firmino struck onto the crossbar.
Despite the victory, Albion manager Alan Pardew admitted he was bemused by what he had witnessed.
“It’s hard to know where to start,” he said after his side, threatened with relegation from the Premier League, beat fourth-placed Liverpool.
“I don’t think that is what we want to see going forward, whether you are a Liverpool or West Brom fan.
“Firstly there is no communication from the referee to us. Like in the NFL (American football), when there is a call and they say they are going to look at that.
“Then they reversed the Dawson goal, which if it wasn’t for the system, would never have been disallowed in any league game.
“The fourth official said it was offside, which surprises me from a corner. I have looked at it and it is really marginal.”
The experienced English boss added: “There is a question there. Are we going to start taking goals away from the entertainment for those slight margins? That is a worry.
“The second one, you can argue Jake has lifted his arm.
But would he have got a penalty in a normal game without VAR? I don’t know.
“But the bigger decision was the four minutes for the Salah decision. You are going from high tempo work-rate to nothing. We had a hamstring (injury) just after that. As a coach, we have to change, we are going to have to get our players to mentally warm-up in that situation and keep themselves ticking over.
“You could say that is a lack of professionalism against us. I don’t know. It is just bizarre. As a football person on the sidelines, I wasn’t comfortable with the first half. It was a mysterious situation at times.”
Liverpool were marginally better in the second half but could only add a consolation goal through Salah.
“I don’t like to say it, but it’s the truth,” said Klopp.
“West Brom deserved to win the game.”